Three weeks before school was to be over for summer break, my counselor asked me if my parents would let me go to Washington, D.C., for a week by myself. Having never traveled by myself, I doubted my parents would let me go. I asked my counselor why she wanted me to go to Washington, D.C., and she told me that she needed someone to represent my school in the Bill of Rights Institute Constitutional Academy. She gave me the link to the website of the summer program to check out and told me to let her know of my decision by the end of the week.
After school that day I visited the website and found out that the program was five days long and that professors and participants would spend time learning about history, as well as the U.S. today. I found out that the program looked for students who were involved in leadership programs and volunteer work so that those students could learn more ways in helping society on a greater scale.
Being class secretary, I now understood why my counselor asked me, and I felt special knowing that an opportunity like this was available for me to take advantage of. I also learned from the website that history would be studied and discussed thoroughly, and at first I was nervous. History has always been interesting to me, but questions were going through my head, such as what and how much was I supposed to remember for the academy? I surely didn’t want to be the quiet one during the discussions or the one who made mistakes in remembering dates and events.
While I was scrolling down the page on the website, I found that participants at the academy would visit widely known places such as the U.S. Capitol, Mount Vernon, the National Archives and the National Mall! The more I was finding out about the academy, the more I wanted to go because it seemed like it would be an unforgettable trip. I was getting overwhelmed about it, and then I saw the section about costs. It was then that I was brought back to reality. I didn’t have enough money in my saving accounts for a trip like this, and there was no way that I could ask my parents to pay; it was out the question. Disappointed, I planned to tell my counselor the next day that she would have to ask someone else to go to the academy.
When my counselor saw me, she asked me about my decision for going to the academy, and I realized that no matter what, I had to tell her the truth so that the next person she asked would have enough time to start with the application process. Looking into her eyes, I thanked her for telling me about this opportunity and for choosing me first to be a candidate to represent my school. I explained that the academy seemed like a terrific opportunity, but because of monetary issues, I wouldn’t be able to go. After I finished explaining myself, my counselor told me that I qualified for a scholarship through Ford Blue Oval Scholars. As soon as she explained to me about the scholarship, I was ecstatic! This changed everything and I asked her if she could give me another day so that I could convince my parents to let me go. She accepted, and throughout the day I couldn’t wait to go home and talk to my parents about it.
Later at home, I brought up Washington, D.C. to my mom. She listened to me until I finished, and the one thing she asked was, “How are you going to manage going by yourself?” She said that she was afraid to let me go by myself. She asked what if I got lost, or hurt, or if I got homesick? While she talked, I thought of things that I could say to convince her to let me go. Then, I started telling her how I love to travel, and that this would be an unforgettable trip. I reminded her that this was a perfect opportunity because of the scholarship, and asked her when will I ever have the opportunity to visit Washington D.C.? My mother said she needed to think about it and talk with my father, and that she would let me know before I went to bed. I was satisfied because that wasn’t a no, but it also wasn’t a yes.
Before I went to bed, my parents told me the greatest news: They agreed to let me go! But they advised me to be very careful since it would be the first time that I would be away from home in an environment that they didn’t know well. I thanked them many times. I also thank the Blue Oval Scholars program, because without its help, I wouldn’t have been able to go.
I left for the academy on Monday, July 9, 2012, and I was nervous! I had long before packed my suitcase and wondered how the week will be while I’m in Washington, D.C. Will I get lost in the airports? Will I be homesick? Will I get along with my roommate? Will I participate enough in the discussions? Will I make friends? I’ll see, and I can’t wait!
Dalila Šetka is a student who qualified for assistance through the Blue Oval Scholars program to attend the 2012 Bill of Rights Academy. She is sharing her experiences from the program with Ford Social.